Took part in The Mountaineer’s annual Mountainfest yesterday, and snowshoe-bushwhacked up the shoulder of Round Mountain, where we got this view of the Dix Mountain range of the High Peaks.
I’d like to tell you that it’s been a long couple of weeks out at the cabin. That, however, would not be the truth. The truth is, it’s been a couple of very lazy weeks lounging around in the comfort of an actual house. The weather has been terrible and I was having to hike into the cabin and my firewood is running low and I was sick of dragging a forty pound jug of water a quarter mile uphill twice a week. So I’ve been staying at my girlfriends with Pico and Herbie. And the Levine men have officially taken over the couch.
I’m still formally living at the cabin, but it has been a nice break. After three winters, I needed some time away from the work and cold and frustration of a house with no indoor plumbing. The chickens are still out there, and are doing well. As the days get longer, the nights haven’t been as cold, and they are doing fine. I go out to the cabin pretty much every day, so even though I was still having to do the hike in, at least I wasn’t having to haul my laundry and bags of dog food and cat litter up that hill.
But speaking of hills, a friend invited me to climb a couple of High Peaks this past weekend. I needed to get out of the house and just said yes when he texted me. I didn’t realize that it was going to be a twenty four mile ski/snowshoe/hike. But we headed out at about six am on Saturday to climb Cliff and Redfield mountains. Twelve hours and forty-five minutes later, we struggled out of the woods and back to my car.
I drove to my girlfriend’s and stumbled in the door. I literally could not move a muscle without moaning in pain, but I made it through the night without dying. The next morning, as I painfully and stiffly made my way across the living room, she convinced me that best way to beat the soreness was to go for a walk or hike. Now, keep in mind, she was not volunteering to go with me, just basically telling me to get out. I think my moaning may have been worse than I thought.
I decided to head out to the cabin to feed the chickens and make sure they still had water, and very gingerly hopped in my car. It’s about a twenty minute ride to the cabin, and every second of the way I was annoyed about the upcoming hike up the driveway. I could barely walk on the flat, warm floor of the house, how was I possibly going to make it up the driveway.
As I got nearer to the cabin, I noticed that my neighbors were at their camp down the road. I figured I’d take care of the girls and then head over to say high. But as I neared the end of the road by my driveway, I was taken by the most magical sight I could behold at that moment: My driveway was plowed.
I cracked a huge grin and smiled the whole way up the driveway. I knew that my neighbor had come down and plowed with his tractor, and I was so happy I actually whooped with joy. The thought of having a clear driveway again after two months was too much to handle. I hugged the chickens and rubbed Pico’s belly until he got sick of it and ran down the driveway.
I took care of everything at the cabin and went down the road to say thanks to the neighbors. I gave him a hug and promised to drop off a few gallons of diesel fuel in payment. This one kind act changed my whole outlook on the last month or so of the winter. It seemed as if so many problems had been solved by this one incredibly kind gesture. My mood was lifted and my spirit sunny. The neighbor s told me they were happy to help, but that they wouldn’t be back for a few weeks.
All of those warm feelings stayed with me until I got back and checked the weather forecast. Twenty inches of snow predicted. It’s amazing how fast the wind got sucked out of my sails. Not that it’s all bad. I know that the snow is here for a limited time, but it was so nice driving into the cabin a couple of times. I can’t thank my neighbors enough for plowing, even if the openness only last for a few days.
I purchase the Osprey Talon 33 backpack two months ago. I have used it in a variety of conditions and am pleased by its performance.
I bought the pack to use on search and rescue missions for Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, however I used it on several hikes and cross-country ski trips before being called out on my first search. I use the NASAR pack contents as a guide for what I should carry. I added some more stuff than they recommend, but also eliminated a few things. I see no need to carry a tracking stick when I have no idea how to use it effectively, but a folding saw can come in handy when you’re in a thick alder swamp with only a couple of feet of visibility.
The pack had some extra room in it even with all the stuff I carry. I use a couple of water bottles instead of a bladder, so with a bladder there would be enough room in this pack for a summer overnight. While out skiing with the pack the first time, I was satisfied with the way the hip belt carries the load. I did not have to deal with the pack shifting a lot, even over several layers of clothes.
I found that the small mesh pockets on each shoulder strap are very convenient for holding an energy packet or something else small. I didn’t want to put a knife in there as the pockets are open at the top, but securely stored my multi-tool in the zippered pocket on the hip belt. It’s easy to get to and in no danger of falling out. I stash a compass in the other hip belt pocket, but they are large enough for a small digital camera as well.
My favorite design feature of the Talon 33 is the number of pockets, with very little on the outside of the pack to get hung up on brush. After two days searching through alder swamps, off-trail through old growth and across rock ledges, the pack never got hung up once on any brush or rocks. I was able to move through the brush easier because of the streamlined design of the pack.
However, there are actually nine pockets in addition to the main compartment and the beaver tail. Two water bottle pockets on either side, one on each shoulder strap and hip belt, two on top of the hood, and a zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the hood. Small things are very easy to access while still being secure.
I put my personal identification, keys, and phone in a baggie and put them in the zippered mesh pocket. I kept a notebook and maps in the top pocket, rain cover on the side, and crampons and gaiters in the beavertail. I had no issue with a lack of storage with this pack.
The downsides are few in my opinion. The shoulder straps are comfortable, light, and airy, but a little flimsy. I can’t help but look at the padding through the mesh and wonder when it will start to rip. The back also isn’t quite stiff enough. I always carry a small foam pad to sit on, and it helped stiffen up the back a little bit. The location of the water bladder is in the usual spot against your back, so using a bladder will probably cause the typical back bulge and make it less comfortable.
All in all, I am really happy with my purchase. It does what I need it do, and even a little more.
Winter is really upon us now, finally with some snow to go along with the bone and soul crushing cold. It’s a mixed bag for me, us getting a bunch of snow. With snow comes a lot of hardship, and also some benefits too.
One of the immediate benefits of the eight or so inches of snow is that my cabin is much better insulated. The old pink fiberglass insulation in the attic is more for show at this point than actual insulating value, but the snow on the roof just bottles of the heat from the stove and makes the cabin much more comfortable.
However, I may think the cabin is more comfortable simply because I now have a third of a mile to hike up to it. Not being able to drive right to the cabin raises a whole host of issues. I can’t use the car as a generator to watch TV and keep the chickens warm. I can’t warm up the car before I leave when it’s thirty below outside. If I forget something in the car, it’s getting frozen and staying there overnight most likely.
But it is nice to be able to just step outside and go skiing. Pico’s getting more exercise since I can actually enjoy the outdoors. When it’s not thirty below. And I like the way everything looks, and how the snow helps reflect the light of the late afternoon sun. One thing that I have been keenly noticing, is the gain in daylight.
Even with the electric lights, it is still difficult to maintain a somewhat normal schedule due to the lack of sunlight. But we’re up to almost eleven hours a day, and I have been literally basking in the added light. Not outside of course, but while lying on the couch.
I’m happy that the chicken tent has not had to make a re-appearance, and that the girls and Midget have been content in the coop. The additional snow makes the coop more insulated too, and even though they have no idea why, I’m sure they’ve been happy in the warmer digs.
So all in all, I guess I don’t mind the snow. It’s the middle of February and won’t be here long. I missed a lot of the winter not being able to ski or snowshoe, but I’m also looking forward to not having to drag my clean laundry up the driveway in a sled.
Spring has decided to show up fashionably late. I woke up to snow the last couple of days, and even though it’s been melted by lunch time each day, it has been discouraging to say the least. However, even with the new snow showers, it is clear that winter is gone, even if spring hasn’t set in completely yet.
Pico and I went hiking the other day up St. Regis Mountain. It was a crisp morning, but with clear skies forecasted all day, it seemed like a great opportunity to hike one of my old favorites before the bugs are out in any sort of force. We set off and wandered through the woods down behind Paul Smiths and up the mountain.
I remember this trail well, as I worked as the summit steward on St. Regis when I was in college. I definitely needed more time to get to the top than I did ten years ago, but Pico and I were on the summit soaking in the sun by ten in the morning. It was sunny and clear and windy, allowing us to see the views with no obstruction. There was a slight haze in the air, but not enough to ruin the sights.
As I sat there eating a candy bar and letting Pico wander about, I wished I had brought a jacket to cut the wind. Sure, it was sunny but there was still a chill to the morning wind that made me not want to linger too long on the open summit. The sun was warm but the air was cold and I could clearly still see plenty of ice on the lakes and ponds stretched below me. Pico drank some water from a puddle and we headed back down the trail.
By the time we got back to the car, it was almost hot out. Almost. You know, hot for spring. It’s amazing how different sixty degrees can feel in the fall compared to the spring. In the fall, I would have been bundled up in jeans and a flannel, but in the sixty degree spring, I was changing into shorts and flip-flops just for the drive back to the cabin.
When we got back out to the cabin, I sat in the sun and just enjoyed the spring-time “quiet.” There are a ton of birds around the cabin now, including robins, juncos and one of the largest hawks I’ve ever seen. There is a lot of chatter and various birds hanging out in the apple trees together. The woodpeckers are pecking away, looking for both food and a mate and the black-capped chickadees are flitting about in the yard, largely ignoring the feeders.
Last year, I didn’t keep the feeders full in the summer. There are bears and red squirrels out here, along with other animals that I really don’t feel like attracting to my cabin. But I think this fall I’ll start filling the feeders a little earlier, so that I get some of these other birds to stick around. It’s not that I blame them for heading south for the winter, but it would be nice to share the cold with a few more wild friends. I just prefer the birds to the bears when it comes to my wild companions.
I’m a traitor. I went to Vermont to go hiking this week. A friend and I hiked Elmore Mountain to an old fire tower. The fire tower was open to the public even though it was decommissioned, which is a big change from New York. Most of the fire towers here have had their first two flights of stairs removed, with the small, obligatory “Warning” sign attached somewhere.
When I went over Sunday afternoon on the Port Kent ferry, the overwhelming view of both Vermont and the Adirondacks was still green. The shoreline of Lake Champlain on both sides of the lake showed little sign of the cooling temperatures of mid-September.
I met up with Mike in Montpelier and followed him to his house somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was well after dark by the time we got there. We had a small fire and a couple of beers while Pico and Mike’s dog Sadie wrestled with each other and barked at the coyotes howling in the woods, not too far away. We could hear cows mooing on a neighboring farm and a heavy dew started settling in while the fire died down.
When I woke up the next morning, I glanced out the window to see a gray sky and a fire red maple. The feeling of waking up on an overcast day with a hike planned was somewhat offset by the brightness of the tree. The window was open and the coolness made me both wide awake and reluctant to get out of bed.
I knocked on Mike’s door to wake him up for the hike, but he and Sadie were already awake. After a beautifully fatty breakfast with a lot of coffee, we headed north to Elmore State Park to climb the mountain. It was a nice trail, and because it was Vermont, basically everyone else we saw had a dog, so Pico and Sadie had plenty of butts to sniff along the way.
When we were done with the hike, we headed back to Mike’s place so I could go home and he could drive down to New Hampshire for a three day hiking trip. I got back on the ferry in Burlington, and soon realized that the boat was going backwards. Or, more accurately, the cars were facing backward.
As the ferry left Vermont, I watched as the lake gained in size while the buildings and boats shrank. Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield stood idly by while we went west across the lake. I got out of the car and turned around. Looking at the Adirondacks from the ferry with Vermont at my back, I realized that I while like the vibe of Vermont, it’s not the Adirondacks. And I love the Adirondacks.
Woke up normal time, between four and five in the morning. I usually get up a few times a night to stoke the fire, but the stove has been burning well for the last couple of weeks. I still like to get up and throw a couple of logs on, and to be sure the fire doesn’t go out, I set an alarm for 10:30pm, 12:30am, and 2:00am.
Got up, checked the fire, finished the book “Boomerang” that I got from the library and tried to fix my car window. The driver’s window is stuck about halfway down, and since its winter, I really need to get it fixed. But I don’t feel like going anywhere today, especially since I have to drive with the window down. No, it’s better to put some plastic over it and wait a day or two to head to the mechanic.
Getting up so early and often generally requires that I take a nap during the day. Since I get up so early, nap time is usually around 9:00am, which sounds weird, because most people have just gotten out of bed or are just getting to work. But by nine, I’ve been up about five hours, and it’s nice to get a little more shut-eye. When I lay down, the wind was blowing and the sky was overcast, but it was warm and there was a steady pat-pat-pat of water dripping off the roof.
When I woke up around noon, I glanced out the big window and could not see the trees on the other side of the yard. They are maybe 150 yards away, but it was a white out. The wind was raging, and snow was blowing everywhere. The screened-in porch had about a half inch of accumulation despite the screens, there were a few inches on the ground while Pico turned white with snow after about a minute outside.
Since I had plenty of water in my brand new 5 gallon jug and lots of food, hunkering down didn’t seem like such a bad option. It would be downright enjoyable if I had another little nine volt battery so I could listen to NPR once in a while, but I killed the last battery yesterday. With all this indoor time on my hands, there’s really only one thing to do: Clean.
I had a roommate for the last couple of months, but he’s gone now, so I set to making the cabin a little less like a weekend retreat and more like a home. The biggest thing I have to do is the dishes. There’s four knives, a bowl, a fork, and a small sauce pot to be washed. It’s not that I don’t eat at home or cook, but I generally use paper plates and bowls, along with plastic silverware and cast-iron pans. I know, I hate using the disposable stuff, but it’s really hard to do the dishes out here with no running water. Plus, at least the paper dishes can go into the stove and produce some heat for the place. Using the stuff twice, that’s my justification.
The propane stove is lit and the tea kettle is on. There’s a big Tupperware in the sink to hold the hot water. I have dish soap and a dish rag too. Then the process begins. I’ve put the five gallon jug on to two small pieces of 2×4 to raise it a little. I wash in the hot water, rinse with the cold water. It’s enough of a pain that I am still going to use mostly disposable stuff, but it only takes a few minutes to wash the dishes. Trust me, this is a big step up in lifestyle.
I rearrange some other things so that I can sit on the couch in front of the big window and decide that that’s enough productivity for one day. After all, I got all winter out here. The storm is still blowing and the forecast now says that the high temperature tomorrow is going to be 1. There’s about 6 inches of snow on the driveway, and I have to get it plowed for the first time this year.
But it’s nice to just sit inside by the fire once in a while. There’s subtle pops from the woodstove and all three animals are snoring. The sound of a fat cat snoring makes me want to crawl back into bed, but I have to head outside and get another arm load of wood.
Forecasters, meteorologists, weathermen, whatever you call them, I label them all the same: Useless.
Heading out from Ausable Point with a belly full of banana bread, I drove down to Newcomb, and then to the Elk Lake parking area after work. The plan was to hike in a little over two miles to the Slide Brook lean-to, then the next day head up into the Dix Range to climb Macomb, East Dix, South Dix, Hough, and Dix.
When I got to the parking lot, I spoke with two separate groups that both said the lean-to was full. I was worried about the forecast, which said rain starting late that night and continuing through the next day, and I didn’t bother to bring a tent. So I decided to sleep in the car and get an early start. “It’s only a couple of extra miles, and those groups did the range as a day hike, so I won’t have any problem.” Stupid forecasters.
I woke up early and started to hike, with a much lighter load. I didn’t need my sleeping stuff, so I ditched it and headed up the trail. The first miles were an easy, pretty flat grade, and I covered the distance to the herd path in under an hour. The herd path up the first four mountains (trail-less) started right from the lean-to, and to my chagrin, there were only four people sleeping there, which is considerably less than full. But oh well, it was less than three miles.
I had planned on the rain, and Pico’s ability to drink from the thousands of puddles that the rain would create. But so far, there was no rain, which of course was good for hiking, but bad for our water supply.
Heading up the herd path following Slide Brook, Pico and I made pretty good time. After starting at about 6:30am, we reached the base of the rock slide on Macomb in just a hair under two hours. Pico and I had never hiked up a rock slide before, and I have to tell you, it was a hell of a lot more scary than I had imagined. I got the first glimpse of the slide a little before reaching the base, and quickly realized that it was close to a thousand feet long, and probably gained six or seven hundred feet in elevation. Staring up from the base of the slide, I was taken aback at how loose and sandy it was. There were some pretty big rocks and lots of smaller ones, with no discernible path up it.
Pico, of course, immediately started up the slide without any hesitation. I, on the other hand, gingerly started to pick my way up, occasionally having to use hand and feet holds, and sending loose rocks sliding with any small slip of my foot. The going was kind of slow, but not too bad, and after getting about halfway up the slide, the first views of Elk Lake were reassuring. It sure did seem pretty far away, though. I was also really preoccupied with the stability of the slide. I thought about avalanche safety, and never crossing the slide, but it was unavoidable. There were several times when I thought about just how screwed I would be if me or Pico started to fall. There wasn’t going to be any way to stop until gravity decided to cut me a break.
After topping out on the slide with no major problems, the trail started again and we were on the summit of Macomb pretty quickly. The clouds were just sitting on top of the mountains, and with no view of the four other peaks on the agenda, I got out the compass and got a bearing towards South Dix. Luckily, the trail was again easy to follow, and Pico and I had no problem making our way to the summit of South Dix.
Just below the summit of South Dix, I ran into a couple who were hiking the other way. They had gone up Dix, then over Hough, camped out, and were exiting over South Dix and Macomb. They said the trail to Hough was easy enough to find, but the two groups who told me the lean-to was full had both gotten lost on their way to Hough. By now the clouds had lifted and I got my first view of what Pico and I had already climbed and what we still needed to climb. We were on the summit of the second of our five mountains for the day, and it was already 10:20am. Better get a move on…
Leaving the summit of South Dix, the trail follows the ridge between South Dix and East Dix. It was easy going, but due to the distance, it took close to an hour to get there. And of course, we then had to turn around and re-hike the same ridge to climb South Dix again. Looking up at the hogback, Hough, and then the small summits leading up to Dix was intimidating. They look so close together, but I know that we still have a lot of walking to do. Plus, our water was getting low because I had to keep sharing it with Pico. Not a single friggin’ puddle for him to drink from. Stupid weathermen.
Not sure how those two groups I spoke to the day before missed the trail to Hough, but Pico and I found it with no problem. We started off to climb the three hump hogback between South Dix and Hough. After getting over the hogback, the ridge drops to just below 4000’ in elevation, so there is a campsite there. Nice little spot, and you’re pretty much guaranteed privacy since it’s in the middle of nowhere.
A steady climb brought us up to the summit of Hough a little after 1:00pm. By now, the sun had peaked out a couple of times, and I was, again, rationing water for Pico and myself. I was starting to be thirsty all the time, and Pico was lapping up every drop I gave him. We had a quick lunch of bagels and I took off my clothes to let them dry out a little and soak up some sun. The summit of Hough was kind of lackluster in and of itself, but there were some great views, especially of Dix, South Dix and Macomb, even with the clouds still sitting pretty low.
Climbing over the three sub-peaks to get to the summit of Dix was demoralizing. I was thirsty and tired, but I also knew that the fastest way back to the car was to climb Dix and head out on the main trail, just like I planned. So we pressed on, and the trail was still easy to follow, but considerably harder to hike. The steepness of some of the sections made me a little worried if I had to down climb, but soon we were right near tree-line, and it seemed like the summit was near. The trail then led us to a giant boulder with a thirty foot long crack in the middle of it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I searched around for a path around the boulder, but found none. I figured that I could try to climb it and maybe it looked worse than it was. I finally got up into the crack and made it up about halfway, then looked back at Pico and realized he wasn’t going to be able to follow me up, and the only rope I had was some flimsy clothes line, not strong enough to pull him up. I down climbed and then bushwhacked my way around to the left of the boulder. The trees were thick and stiff, and it took close to twenty minutes to go about thirty feet. But, Pico was able to follow on this route, and we made it to the top of the boulder.
The hike out was uneventful to say the least. Pretty much a straight shot out to the car, even though it took another four hours of walking. Just as I was able to see the parking lot through the trees, I felt the first sprinkle of the day. We got to the car, and I drank water until I almost threw up. As the sprinkles got a little heavier, I stripped for the second time that day and took a rain shower right there in the parking lot.